Lengthy Spaceflights May Put Strain on the Mind

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By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 1, 2017 (HealthDay Information) — The brains of astronauts who spend months in area seem to shift upward inside their skulls by the point they return to Earth, a brand new examine finds.

The repercussions, if any, are unsure for now, researchers stated.

It isn’t clear how shortly the mind may settle again into its rightful place as soon as Earth’s gravity has taken maintain, stated lead researcher Dr. Donna Roberts.

However one concern is that this: If the mind strikes upward, it may compress a significant vein that drains blood from the pinnacle — presumably rising strain throughout the cranium.

And in reality, it is already recognized that some astronauts have returned from the Worldwide House Station with imaginative and prescient issues. NASA has dubbed the phenomenon “visible impairment and intracranial strain” syndrome, or VIIP.

Roberts stated her crew suspects the mind’s upward shift can assist clarify VIIP — although it is too early to say for positive.

The findings elevate different questions, in response to Roberts, an affiliate professor on the Medical College of South Carolina in Charleston.

Particularly, what may occur to the human mind throughout deeper area journey? That is a risk within the not-too-distant future, as NASA has laid out plans for getting people to Mars by the 2030s.

“If we see these mind modifications after a number of months on [the space station],” Roberts stated, “what may occur on a mission to Mars?”

A journey to Mars can take three to 6 months. Then, to cut back journey time between the Earth and Mars, the 2 planets have to be aligned favorably, which happens roughly each two years, Roberts defined.

The examine findings, revealed Nov. 2 within the New England Journal of Drugs, are primarily based on MRI mind scans of 34 astronauts. Eighteen had been on area station missions, averaging 165 days; the remaining had been on shuttle missions, averaging 14 days.

All of the astronauts had mind scans taken earlier than the mission, then once more a couple of week after they’d returned.

The researchers had been in a position to search for sure structural modifications in a subgroup of 18 astronauts. It turned out that every one 12 area station astronauts confirmed an upward shift within the mind, versus not one of the six who’d returned from a short-term mission.


Equally, the area station astronauts had been more likely to indicate a narrowing within the cerebrospinal fluid areas on the high of the mind.

Rachael Seidler, a professor on the College of Florida in Gainesville, is main a NASA-sponsored examine trying into the results of extended spaceflight on motion, considering and habits.

She described the dynamics of what the newest examine confirmed in fundamental phrases: The Earth’s gravitational pull usually attracts fluids downward within the physique. However within the microgravity of area, extra cerebrospinal fluid can construct up across the mind — which pushes it up.

“In a way, the mind is getting a little bit squished,” Seidler stated.

Extra work is required to know what all of it may imply.

“How lengthy do the [brain] modifications final?” Seidler stated. “Are there results on habits or bodily efficiency?”

Astronauts have, after all, been touring to and from area for many years. And scientists have lengthy studied the results on the guts, bones and different physique techniques, Roberts stated.

The mind, nonetheless, has gotten little consideration.

That began altering in recent times, Roberts stated, with the emergence of VIIP — which has cropped up nearly solely after long-term missions.

However the questions transcend VIIP, in response to Seidler.

For instance, she stated, what occurs when the mind is now not getting regular sensory info from the legs for months? What are the results of getting the vestibular (steadiness) system thrown off by being in microgravity 24/7?

Learning these questions, Seidler stated, may assist in higher understanding earthly situations, too — akin to instances the place persons are on extended mattress relaxation.


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